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Quake early warning needs 24/7 staffing

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 16/11/2016

The head of New Zealand's earthquake monitoring agency hopes to permanently-man an early warning centre, but admits even this might not have given Kaikoura residents time to escape a tsunami.

Writing a blog post about Monday's "monster" quake, New Zealand GeoNet director Dr Ken Gledhill said it was not ideal that the country's monitoring system was not staffed 24 hours a day.

Because of this, in the event of a large quake, "we have to wake people and get them out of bed to look at complex data and make serious calls very quickly", he said.

"It is not an ideal situation given the past few months, and I'd like to change that by getting support for a 24/7 monitoring centre for geohazards. I'm going to be blatant in my campaigning for this," he said.

"But, even with a 24/7 (centre), we may still not have been fast enough for people in Kaikoura."

"We were lucky the tsunami struck at low tide; high tide could have left more damage than I feel comfortable thinking about."

Mr Gledhill said the best advice for residents was still: "if you are at the coast and feel a long or strong earthquake - be gone".

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